August 24, 2008

August 24, 1918: Home Economics becomes a College Subject

As William and Mary was becoming co-ed, the institution probably realized that they needed at least one "appropriate" subject for their new female students to take. This was achieved with the addition of Home Economics to the Courses of Study before the start of the fall semester. On August 24, 1918, future President of the College, Julian Alvin Carroll Chandler, wrote to President Tyler to express that his committee had "decided favorably on home economics for William and Mary." Chandler also expressed his hope that it would be a "real satisfactory college department."

While to the modern reader Home Economics sounds like a fluff subject, in 1918 it was not intended to be. According to the 1918-1919 Course Catalog, the department was "intended primarily for the training of teachers of Home Economics," but "open to all women of the college, and to others who may desire to elect them."

The Home Economics major included classes in the more "traditional" women's work, such as sewing and cooking, but it also included Math, English, and even Organic Chemistry. This department prepared women to become not only educated in the liberal arts, but also prepared them for a career. It provided them with an option that not a lot of women had: respectable employment. Through this department, some women at the college probably realized that they had choices about the direction of their lives and their futures.

This post was composed by Jordan Ecker.

For additional information about the first women students at the College of William and Mary see: When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945 by Laura F. Parrish; "The Petticoat Invasion": Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945; The Martha Barksdale Papers; and the Women at the College of William and Mary page on the Special Collections Research Center Wiki.

No comments: